I’m going to take a break from books this week to talk about writing competitions. I mentioned recently that I judged a novel contest, which was more taxing than the poetry and essay contests I’ve judged because I had to include feedback for the authors.
Submitting work to contests makes up an essential part of a writer’s marketing strategy. An author’s bio should include at least a couple of awards, especially if the author has not yet published very much. Not quite as uncertain as playing the lottery, contests hold out the hope of a possible win with all the associated recognition. In a contest you can be sure that your work is at least read, something agents and editors cannot promise. However, the fees can mount up quickly and, depending on the contest, can match you up with dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of competitors.
The trick, then, is to choose your contests carefully, perhaps starting with smaller, lesser-known ones where you have fewer rivals. Weigh carefully the size of the fees, which vary, against the possibility and prestige value of winning. Look for contests where the judging is blind, so reputation is not a factor. Enter free contests; what have you got to lose? And accept that the wins will probably be slow in coming while you are learning your craft and infrequent after that.
Contests represented a critical element in my strategy for selling my memoir, Innocent. Continue reading